Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of a tale of two specials

8th October 2017

You wait ages for a special train and then two come at once. Well OK, not quite at once, but on the same day. So anyway...

E-bay has provided a few more useful bits this week. Although the low load trailer is not yet ready for its MoT, a minor pre-requisite of getting it moved anywhere or taking a loco somewhere, Andrew is looking ahead to getting the winch fitted and with that in mind, has been collecting things like snatch-blocks as worthwhile additions to the 'tackle box'. I point out that it would also look more like a winch if he got a wire-rope for it, whereupon he insists that first it must be overhauled and provided with a clutch release so that the rope can be unrolled quickly rather than unwind it at the same ponderous rate at which it subsequently winches back. Many years ago, a haulier who had best remain nameless arrived at Thomas Hill's with a 75ton 0-6-0DH from Ravenscraig. Our preferred haulier at this time was Sunter Brothers, but BSC had gone for someone else and as Sunters would normally have unloaded without assistance (we even had lines painted on the concrete to mark where the corners of the trailer had to be), instructions went down from on high that the workshop staff were to give a wide berth and render no assistance. This was a trifle cruel as the unit's winch apparently had a problem and it wouldn't have been that difficult for the works shunter to have ventured up the ramp and controlled the incomer down. Hauliers normally refer to unloading the load as 'tipping' and faced with no means of controlling the loco down the ramp, and no-one prepared to help, the driver used the clutch-release and committed the loco to gravity! I was told afterwards that it must have been doing 20mph by the time it reached the permanent track at the bottom of the ramp, and rolled sedately round the curve and exited through the gates at the extremity of the site. Management at Kilnhurst expressed their extreme displeasure at this cavalier way of tipping and were placated by being told that the driver had been sacked. I was never sure he was – I suspect the haulier's management merely ticked him off for taking a few risks (if the ramp hadn't stood up to it the loco might had taken a tangential course and left two large grooves in the Kilnhurst concrete) but just made a note that if they were to deliver a loco to us again, not to allocate him to the job!

I recall all this to explain why the thought of having a means of freeing the winch drum of all restraint fills me with dread, but while on the subject of reminiscing and transport, there was the tale of the Sentinel that went to the south of France. In Sentinel days Esso at Fos sur Mer had bought a Sentinel 0-6-0, which had been delivered, as was the norm in those days, by means of a commissioning engineer/driver taking it under its own power. And before you ask, it took a fortnight and he took a sleeping bag with him to protect the loco overnight from inquisitive Frenchmen. But around 1983 they wanted another loco, and we had a Sentinel chain drive loco in stock, fully rebuilt. Other than doing the quote I had little involvement when the French engineers came over to inspect, but I was told that they had been so thorough as to almost take it all apart and rebuild it a second time. I did however, submit a separate quote for haulage down to Fos sur Mer by road, (no, no long distance railtour by the eighties) and was dismayed when Esso rejected my quote in favour of a freight forwarding company who engaged a haulier we'd never heard of. Apparently in their innocence they expected us to load the loco by craning it on, and I explained, no, we ramp everything on and so must they. In the end, they refused to lose face by admitting that they had under-quoted and in due course the lorry arrived suitably equipped.

Or rather it wasn't, it was a rather amateur-ish idea of a railed ramp and half-way up it gave way under the loco. Once again Thomas Hill management, perhaps with half-an-eye on the potential insurance premiums if it went wrong, kept workshop staff clear and the poor crew had to jack the loco up to re-build their ramp underneath it. Sentinels, like most industrials, have jacking brackets, but these guys used whatever they could, which included the underside of the axleboxes. They got it away, but we took delight in flagging it with Esso that we would accept no liability for damage inflicted by their contractor. Our commissioning engineer for this was the late Derrick Hobson, and on arrival found himself directing Esso staff to lift the loco and sure enough found damage to one axle journal – the journal had been metal-sprayed during rebuilding and a chunk had been dislodged. In the end Esso had a set of service exchange wheelsets for it and I hoped the Purchasing man responsible for saving a few Francs was suitably contrite.

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Not much to report nearer home and time until Thursday this week, when I made a trip up to Tunstead to view progress on RS8's frame. All the fabrication work is completed; the steps have been repaired and a large part of the left side running plate has been renewed. The frame has also been put in the paint booth and sprayed black all-over.

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Nearby its 'new' engine still awaits the change of pump, injectors, oil and filters and I was rather disappointed to see so little change, but it was a case of going over again what there is to do, and giving them tips and the confidence to proceed. I did discover - to my embarrassment - that the stop solenoid is seized solid, so that will need changing too. I agreed to put together an improvised wiring harness for its test run. On the positive side I was passed a memory stick – scary how small these things are nowadays, this one was built into a piece of plastic about the size of a credit card as the actual electronic memory bit is so minute as to be too easily lost – which contains pdfs of all the drawings. That means I can start looking at the rear engine mounts at last, and the pneumatic and electric diagrams.

We moved up to what they call the 'brick shed', an inaccurate euphemism as it was concrete and wouldn't fit in anyone's garden unless you own Chatsworth, and found a few things that will be needed from the parts put up there for storage. This included the flywheel (the 'new' engine had a genset flywheel) and I stressed the need to get it on in the correct position. Although Rolls' made it so that you shouldn't get it wrong, we know that James' flywheel is 120 degrees out, thanks to one of my skilled fitters in its Ford days. I was also pleased to discover the missing gear cover for the engine turnover stand had indeed travelled up to Tunstead, so this came back to Darley with me.

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Before I left we reviewed the RS8 website, which has been brought largely up to date, and includes a link to a you-tube video of the frame being craned up and over onto the lorry at Darley. Stop by if you've a moment to spare.

I came back to Darley with an internal micrometer to measure RS8's wheel centre bore, and left the crankpin with them for metal spraying once I can tell them what to spray to. In addition, it looks as though I'll be making weekly visits – Thursday next week for starters - to view progress and pass on the benefits of my millions of years in industrial loco work.

But Friday I had no time to do anything as it was my task to drive to Norfolk and collect grandson for another weekend. I did spend the afternoon on Saturday at the shed, working on a commercial job mostly, but late in the afternoon Andrew joined me and together we measured the crankpin and found that the bore is tapered. So far as we can tell, it is deliberately tapered, though quite at what angle is difficult to say. We shall have to plot it out and decide just how much to aim for as an interference fit.

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During the week I had heard that on Sunday Peak Rail had not one, but two specials visiting. The 'Peak Forester', I had known about some time, but it seemed that the 'Lickey Incline 2' was making a foray up from Derby to Rowsley before heading to Worcester, Moreton-on-Lugg and other far flung places. Now, I like to greet such visiting trains and make them feel at home and catch their attention. So I was at the shed for ten-to-eight and had James fired up while I put my overalls on and then took it down to the headshunt. The train was a little late, but in due course I heard it hooting at the crossings on the bank and it came into view under the bridge, led by 47 848 and tailed by 37 884. I smiled sweetly at the numerous faces that peered out at me and amused myself at the looks of surprise. Once it had passed I put James back and when it returned, I provided variety by being in Charlie, coupled to Thelma and Louise, and back slightly farther over so as to give them a better photographic opportunity. I was gratified to see even more cameras pointing my way on this pass, and subsequently learned that a former work-colleague of Andrew's was on board and messaged him about seeing me!

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I had along list of jobs to progress over the weekend (sadly only a few got ticked off) but those that did included measuring up the two remaining springs from RS8 (that is to say, the two still at Darley rather tan the two at Tunstead) for new buckles and the axleboxes for that narrow gauge steamer project that makes the odd advance every few years. I also hunted out a suitable enclosure (this time a s/h 3-phase isolator) and made up a switch box with cable looms to starter motor and pump solenoid. I even went through several of the solenoids we have in stock and checked them out, finally selecting one for RS8 and cabling it up to the box.

News from the blockman was that the Peak Forester, hauled by 70013, was half-an-hour late leaving Norwich this morning and still 28 minutes down at Draycott. But when I trundled James up to the headshunt (early because I thought I heard a Britannia-type hooter) I found a couple there who insisted that it was on time leaving Derby, because someone had rung up and told them. It was half-an-hour before it rolled into view, and I kept James farther back so as not to spoil their shot.

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Thus the Forester had only a two hour lay over at Rowsley to turn and service, and I filled my time in as best I could finishing the switch box and tidying up after myself. Towards 6pm I put Charlie and the two wagons in much the same place as before, and concentrated on listening for Cromwell's hooter as it left Rowsley, or the blockman starting to open the level crossing gates. Finally it came by, after a crowd had photographed it from the platform, and I grabbed my shot before smiling sweetly at the passengers once again, exchanging the odd wave (posher lot this, not so many cameras).

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As the train passed by under the bridge, I realised that for all the time I had been looking towards Rowsley, behind me a photographer had climbed over the barbed wire fence and was filming track-side. As I brought Charlie back up to the headshunt he was hurriedly packing up and climbing back over the fence. This position was right next to a section of our razor wire, and a gap I'd left because I didn't think anyone would be able to climb over: it seems I was wrong. I didn't challenge him – I'd probably have got a mouthful of 'jobsworth' if I had – even though under the terms of the Agreement with PR Andrew and I are responsible for everything that happens within the yard area, and this man was on it. Never mind, we've still two spare coils of razor wire left.

And that's it for this week, and as I write this, the Forester train will still not have reached Norwich, although now it is diesel-powered having dropped Cromwell at Peterborough for a visit to the Nene.

We're due a good turn out next Saturday from the IDRPG lads, and I've now got Thursday to look forward to. Stop by next Sunday and see what happens.

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